I have broken this book review into two posts so that readers can more easily ignore the synopsis if they don't want to know the plot. This is the synopsis so skip this part of the review if you don't want to know what happens.
Double Eagle by Dan Abnett. 416 pages.
Enothis 773.M41. Darrow, a virgin flyer for the Enothis PDF, is involved in a dogfight with Obarkon, an infamous Chaos pilot. Darrow impresses Obarkon with his flying long enough to be rescued by Heckel, another PDF pilot. Kaminsky is working as a munitorum driver. He collects pilots from the Phantine XX and transports them to Military Airbase (MAB) Theda South. Viltry meets a local woman, Mayer who is praying at an Imperial shrine.
The Phantine flyers, led by Jagdea, are joined by other Navy fighter wings at Theda MAB including the Apostles, an elite wing of Aces. Admiral Ornoff has been tasked with the Enothis theatre. He tells the pilots that Imperial ground forces almost defeated the Archenemy but were repulsed at the Southern Trinity Hives. The flyers mission is to cover the ground forces retreat until they can reach the Zophonian Sea and be resupplied for a counter attack. Darrow crash lands at Theda MAB during the briefing.
LeGuin abandons his Leman Russ in the desert. He is part of a retreating column of vehicles heading for the coast. They are harried by Chaos planes. Viltry leads a succesful raid upon enemy armour harrassing Imperial columns trekking through the Makanite Mountains. Marquall, a novice Phantine pilot, upset Gettering of the Apostles by giving his plane the same name, Double Eagle. The situation is diffused by Jagdea and Seekan, master of the Apostles.
Due to heavy casualties and the arrival of the Navy and Guard flyers, Darrow's PDF wing is stood down. Phantine flyers engage the Archenemy who are chasing PDF planes. Marquall makes a mess of his first mission and is only saved by Espere who is horribly wounded. Viltry meets Mayer again.
Jagdea enlists Kaminsky to help find Marquall who has failed to return following his disastrous mission. Kaminsky reveals he used to be a pilot before his injuries forced him to retire. Darrow is moved to Operations at Theda MAB where he meets Scalter, another pilot without a plane. Viltry discovers that Mayer's ex-husband was a PDF pilot who was killed earlier in the war. The Phantine XX are involved in a furious dogfight. Clovin is killed and Marquall only escapes when he fires his rocket drive. The Apostles rescue the rest. The Archenemy are led by Obarkon who kills one of the Apostles.
Heckel commits suicide upon hearing he is due to fly again. Marquall gets his first kill but is shot down himself. Viltry helps bomb an enemy mass land carrier. Marquall is given Espere's Thunderbolt. The Phantine XX are moved to a secret airbase at Lake Gocel. Viltry crashes.
Asche seduces Marquall. LeGuin pulls Viltry from the wreckage. The Phantine XX adopt feathers as lucky charms when one of their number narrowly escapes death after flying into a flock of birds. Gettering of the Apostles is killed so Marquall is allowed to rename his Thunderbolt Double Eagle. It breaks down before his next mission. Asche snubs Marquall as a result. Marquall meets ayatani Kautas who tries to give him advice.
Jagdea fights hard to defend a retreating column, against orders. Base Commander Blauger tries to discipline her but Kautus points out that because the Phantine are Imperial Guard, the Imperial Navy have no jurisdiction over them.
Vilty proves his worth by downing a Chaos fighter from LeGuin's Leman Russ. The Phantine XX are involved in an epic dogfight. Marquall gets his second kill. Asche downs ten enemy. Zemmic gets four kills and is seduced by Asche. Nevertheless, the Imperials are forced back by the Archenemy advance.
The secret Phantine airbase is overrun. Blauger and Kautas are killed but most of the pilots escape. Jagdea is wounded. The Phantine return to Theda. Leguin reaches the coast. Viltry heads back toward Theda. Asche is invited to join the Apostles.
Theda is invaded by Blood Pact troopers. Jagdea escapes the hospital. Darrow catches a transport. The Phantine flyers depart. Kaminsky picks up Jagdea and they ride out in a PDF flyer. Kaminsky shows considerable skill to shoot down an Archenemy flyer. Viltry is reunited with Mayer.
The Phantine XX are moved to Lucerna island. Viltry ends up there too, but a munitorum mix means he is listed as dead. Jagdea returns to the Phantine wing. Another administrative error means that the Phantine XX are assigned four extra Thunderbolts. Jagdea recruits Viltry, Kaminsky, Darrow and Scalter to fly the spares.
The Archenemy launch their final attacks. The Imperial fighters are almost overwhelmed. Marquall gets his third kill and is saved by the Apostles, including Asche. Scalter is shot down and dies. Marquall gets his fourth kill.
The Phantine XX face off against Obarkon again. Darrow and Marquall team up to take him on. Marquall is wounded. Darrow makes himself a target so that Marquall can get the kill. Marquall becomes an ace but dies himself.
The Archenemy attack is stalled. The Imperial ground forces rally and take the Southern Trinity Hives. LeGuin is the first to breach the gates. Jagdea agrees to allow Viltry to remain 'dead' and therefore reunite with Mayer.